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Mental Health Care in California: Painting a Picture

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Mental Health Care in California: Painting a Picture

Many Californians with mental illness don't get the treatment they need. This Almanac report focuses on prevalence, care delivery, and cost.

July 2013

Nearly 1 in 6 California adults has a mental health need, and approximately 1 in 20 suffers from a serious mental illness that makes it difficult to carry out major life activities. The rate among children is even higher: 1 in 13 suffers from a mental illness that limits participation in daily activities.

In mental health care, counties play a large role in financing and care delivery, and outpatient settings for care dominate. However, less is known about the mental health system — from prevalence of individual disorders to statewide costs of care to quality of care delivery — than about the medical system. This report uses the most recent data available — from 2009 and 2010.

Mental Health Care in California: Painting a Picture provides an overview of mental health in California: disease prevalence, suicide rates, the state's care delivery system, supply and use of treatment providers, and access to care. The report also highlights available quality data and the most recent data on national mental health care spending.

Key findings include:

  • About half of adults and two-thirds of adolescents with mental health needs did not get treatment.
  • For children and adults, the prevalence of serious mental illness varied by income, with much higher rates of mental illness at lower income levels.
  • There are significant racial and ethnic disparities for incidence of serious mental illness among adults: Native American, multiracial, and African American populations experienced the highest rates.
  • Compared to the US, California had a lower overall suicide rate, although it varied considerably within the state by gender, age, race/ethnicity, and region.
  • The distribution of spending on mental health care in the US has changed dramatically over the last 20 years, with inpatient and residential care spending decreasing, and outpatient care and prescription drug spending increasing.

An interactive graphic maps the wide geographic variation of mental illness in California.

The full report is available under Document Downloads.